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Time To Put Abruzzo Back On The Map with Tiberio

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It’s amazing to think that my journey to understand wine is now verging on fifteen years long. Yet what’s even more amazing is that through it all, I started with Italy and continue to be both enamored by the wine produced there but also still learning something new about it on a daily basis. You must understand that Italian wine is vast, a person could make it their life’s work to fully understand it, and I have a feeling that person might be me one day.

I knew from the very beginning that I was hooked. What started with Barolo and Barbaresco led to Alto Piemonte and Valtellina. What started with Chianti Classico and Brunello segued deeper into the Sangiovese belt with Le Marche and Umbria. This happened throughout the years, as new regions and their diverse selection of native varieties and unique regional expressions continued to pull me in deeper.

However, there is one region that I always saw great potential in, but with the exception of only one or two small producers, never seemed to reach the heights which I thought possible, and that’s Abruzzo. This region has its ever-so-likable and downright slurpable Montepulciano grape. Not to mention, the Somm favorite–the crisp, white Pecorino–simply never seemed to be able to produce wines of serious importance. Of course, there was the Montepulciano of Emidio Pepe and Trebbiano Abruzzese of Valentini, but these producers were the exception, not the rule.

The rule, unfortunately, was a push to create more concentrated wines. Wines aged in oak that could compete on an international level. One thing that this region excelled at was its large production of affordable (and quite likable) Montepulciano, but each time a producer attempted to put something in the market that was supposed to be more important, ageable, or serious–the contents within the bottle would simple fail to justify the price.

This has been the status quo since I started my journey with Italian wine.

However, something is suddenly very different about Abruzzo; there’s a renewed sense of purpose these days, which has been instigated by a small amount of forward-thinking winemakers, who believe that the region they call home is capable of so much more than it has produced in the past. Not quantity, mind you–but quality, and a distinction or quantifying of the region’s native varieties, which is sure to propel its wines to the world’s stage.

One of the most talked-about producers in Italy today isn’t from Piedmont, Tuscany, or Sicily–she’s from Abruzzo, and her name is Cristiana Tiberio.

In what seemed like an overnight coup–completely changing the way many people thought of Montepulciano, Pecorino and Trebbiano Abruzzese–was instead a well-played and steady evolution that started with Cristiana’s father in the late nineties. It was at this time that Riccardo Tiberio found himself moving his entire family from the coastal city of Pescara to the small town of Cugnoli because of a vineyard he had found of old, “True” Trebbiano Abruzzese. It’s important to understand that there’s a reason why Trebbiano isn’t looked upon as a wine of great importance around the world, and that’s because very few producers are actually growing real Trebbiano vines. However, we can’t necessarily blame them; the reality is that even the vine nurseries of the region were unintentionally supplying a mix of inferior clones and less important varieties over decades. Yet when we taste the great Trebbiano of Valentini, we are tasting true Trebbiano Abruzzese–no wonder we love it so much. And it was with this same love of the grape and it’s possibilities that Riccardo changed his family’s lives forever.

Trebbiano Abruzzese pergola

What followed was a severe massel selection and planting of new vineyards, which are today producing fruit for the entire portfolio. A study of the soils and vine training techniques prompted the Tiberio family to plant Pecorino, a mountainous variety, in a mix of limestone with a marly-gravel subsoil at 1250 feet above sea level. At only 16 years old, the Tiberio family has the oldest planted Pecorino vines in the region, planted in a location that is ideal for producing superior fruit.

A selection of their Montepulciano grapes are grown using the canopy system, or Pergola, which was thought for many years to be an outdated methodology, yet Ricardo’s daughter Cristiana swears by it. In these limestone soils, with the sun beating down on the overhead leaves, the grapes remain protected and ripening at a steady pace. It’s no wonder that I often think more of the fragile Pinot Noir than Montepulciano when I drink these wines.

Together with her brother Antonio, Christiana took the reins of the winery in 2008 and began on her mission to show the world both what her father had uncovered in these hills and also what the native varieties of her region could accomplish.

Christiana and Antonio Tiberio

Today it is the Fonte Canale Trebbiano Abruzzese that is her pride and joy. It’s a true Trebbiano Abruzzese, made from the same vineyard that inspired her father almost twenty years ago. Produced from 60 year old vines, grown using traditional pergola vine training, which allows her Trebbiano to enjoy a long, shady growing season. Christiana describes this wine as liquid minerals, and from the moment you taste it, her description becomes clear. The textural depth and layered minerality found here is unimaginable, and it must be tasted to be believed. It is, without a doubt, one of Italy’s most important white wines today, and it should age beautifully. For those who have the means, put this next to a Valentini Trebbiano to taste, and you’ll see what I mean.

Let’s not forget her Montepulciano, a wine that breaks the price-to-quality ratio with its haunting depths and pinot-like textures at a price that is unbelievable. Try decanting one for an hour and reap the benefits. And the Pecorino, also at an amazing price point, is considered the best example of its kind in Italy today. Did I mention Cerasuolo–maybe I’ll keep that one all for me. 🙂

The fact is that I could go on and on about the wines, but what’s most important here are the people. Christiana and her brother Antonio are committed to not only showing the world what they can produce, but also to help the entire region to grow with them through awareness. Their message is the importance of varietal parentage, of terroir, and the purity of superior Abruzzese fruit found in all stainless steel vinification.

Abruzzo is now firmly back on the map, and it owes much of that to Tiberio.

On to the tasting notes:

2015 Tiberio Pecorino Colline Pescaresi IGT – The nose was incredibly pretty, showing lifted citrus, raw almond, young peach, mango skins, and vibrant minerals. On the palate, I found silky mid-weight textures contrasted by zesty, cleansing acidity, tart citrus, young fig, green apple and minerals. It finished pure, with a buzz of green apple acidity, wild herbs and inner floral tones. It was stunning and pure, with a cleansing, drink-me-now, personality. (92 points)

2016 Tiberio Montepulciano Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo – The ’16 Tiberio Cerasuolo provided unexpected depth and minerality on the nose, showing strawberry, raspberry, wild flowers, chalk dust and crushed stone. On the palate, I found lifted textures, yet with contrasting cherry fruit that saturated the senses and provided grip, while brisk acidity with hints of blood orange maintained an amazingly fresh experience. It finished with a twang of tart red berry and hints of herbs, yet it was remarkably fresh. Wow! (92 points)

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 points)

2013 Tiberio Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Fonte Canale – It took over an hour for the ’13 Fonte Canale to really show it’s true potential, yet once it did, there was no doubt about this wines potential. On the nose, I found a bouquet of dried flowers, pear and young peach, along with hints of lime and penetrating crushed stone minerality. Unexpectedly weighty textures were contrasted by masses of tart lemon-lime citrus, green apple, minerals and brisk acidity, which made the mouth water throughout the finish, as cheek-puckering, saturating citrus-infused stone fruits lingered on. (93 points)

2015 Tiberio Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Fonte Canale – The ’15 Fonte Canale is, all at once, both stimulating and soothing to the senses. Depths of mineral-infused stone fruits and green apple acidity dominated the palate, creating unbelievable tension and a savory finish that went on and on. All of this while maintaining an amazingly textural experience. Sometimes a wine grows on you, but in this case, it was love at first sight. (95 points)

Article, Tasting Notes and Bottle Shots: Eric Guido

Vineyard and Grape Photos courtesy of Tiberio

Visit the Tiberio Website

The Tiberio selection at Morrell Wine

Ten Years in the Making, Tasting Leonetti with Chris Figgins

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Thinking back to when I was first getting into Washington State wine, the name Leonetti was already firmly fixed as an icon of the region. This was over ten years ago, and somehow I spent most of that decade getting more and more into the region, without ever having a chance to taste through a range of Leonetti. Then one day I had my chance, with a bottle of 2011 Sangiovese, a wine that Leonetti is especially known for. However, as luck would have it, I wasn’t impressed. The 2011 showed little in the way of Sangiovese character, and it sported a sweet spice and mineral note that brought Flintstones Vitamins to mind–I didn’t even write a tasting note.

But fear not!

I was determined to understand how this name had become a pillar of the region, and I’ve been around long enough to know that you should never judge a producer on one wine, from one vintage. Luckily for me, that opportunity was right around the corner, only two months after my ill-fated experience, I was offered a chance to taste with Chris Figgins himself, through a range of wines that spanned three vintages.

Chris Figgins, the son of the winery’s founder Gary Figgins, is a man that has his eye on the future of both Leonetti and the ever-evolving world of domestic wine. Within only moments of talking with Chris, the first thing that stood out to me was his love for Italian varietals and maintaining their character. You can imagine that after my experience with the 2011 Sangiovese, I wouldn’t have expected this, and I of course asked him about it.

30 Hectolitre “botti” At Leonetti

Chris went on to explain how the 2011 was an outlier from the normal style of their Sangiovese, due to a mix of frost-damaged vines from the previous year, and a long, cool growing season with one of the latest harvest dates on record. The wine was made from ripe, but also concentrated fruit. He then went on to assure me that the Sangiovese is aged in 100% neutral wood botti. You can imagine my surprise, but also my excitement, that this one wine may have been a misleading experience for me. He also had my interests peaked, as he talked about an Aglianico that he has thought about producing.

With that out of the way, we moved on to vintages, Leonetti, and Chris’ other projects. If you haven’t already heard, Washington State has had a string of great vintages starting with the classic 2012s and getting progressively warmer in overall temperature with each year. Keep in mind that this is a generally warm region, which is why it’s important to look to growers who aren’t in the business of making big blousy wines.

Leonetti, with its history going back to being Walla Walla’s first commercial winery in 1977, continues to strive for a classic, balanced style. With a constant eye on the future, and a no-compromise approach in the vineyards and cellar, the family farms five very distinct terroir from within their estate holdings—each contributes unique characteristics to the finished wines, and everything is done in-house. The pride that this family has for their products, their land and the well-being of the industry is like a breath of fresh air.

That said, Chris has also started to look outside of the family’s holding that produces his Figgins label, which includes a Cabernet-based red and Riesling from Washington, as well as projects that are coming together in the Willamette Valley–that’s right, Oregon.

That’s when we got to tasting.

With my detailed notes below, I’ll stick to broad impressions. First I’ll say that I enjoyed the Figgins wines, especially the Riesling for its sheer drinkability. However, they are a departure from the Leonetti style. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but don’t approach these wines as if they are an extension to Leonetti. The Figgins red was a solid effort that will make a lot of people happy. For me though, the real excitement was found in the Leonetti lineup, with the 2015 Merlot and 2014 Cabernet stealing the show. It’s not often in this business that you taste a wine and immediately want to put some in your own cellar, but that is indeed what happened here.

Oh, and I did have a chance to taste the Sangiovese again, this time the 2014, and while it didn’t blow my mind, I can assure you that it’s no slouch.

I totally get it, and I fully understand now why Leonetti is looked upon with so much respect in the region. These are gorgeous, world-class wines.

On to the tasting notes:

Leonetti Sangiovese Walla Walla 2014 – Here I found an intense mix of deep, spicy red fruits, with notes of new leather, chalk dust minerality and hints of cocoa. On the palate, firm, angular textures gained energy through zesty acidity with tart red fruits and spicy tannic crunch. It finished long and firm with palate-saturating deep red fruits. I’m not sure I’d call this Sangiovese in a blind tasting, but it’s undeniably an enjoyable wine that’s worth seeking out. (92 points)

Leonetti Merlot Walla Walla 2015 – I feel like I had a total ah-ha moment with the 2015 Leonetti Merlot, with a bouquet of sweet red and blue fruits, rich brown spices, sweet herbs and chalk dust minerality. On the palate, I found silky textures with herb-infused red berry fruits, exotic spice and inner violet floral tones. It seemed to saturate all of the senses with its sweet herb and fruit tones before heading into a long and concentrated finish where young tannin added a tart and grippy quality. What a beautiful wine. (95 points)

Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla 2014 – The nose was intense and utterly compelling, showing dark, rich red and black fruits with enticing notes of grilled herbs and masses of contrasting mineral tones. On the palate, I found soft, silky textures with sappy red fruits and a savory mix of herbs and spice. It was creamy yet structured with perfectly balancing acidity that resulting in a long and satisfying finish. There’s so much potential under the hood here, and I can’t wait to see what five or more years in the cellar might evoke. (96 points)

Leonetti Reserve Walla Walla 2013 – The nose was rich with crushed berry, sweet florals, hints of cola and undergrowth. On the palate, I found a refined and lighted expression, much more so than I would have expected with bright red fruits and hints of woodland flora. It finished long and spicy with hints of herbs. (92 points)

Figgins Estate Red 2013 – The nose showed intense ripe red fruits with dusty sweet spices, yet it was unexpectedly fresh and gained richness with air. On the palate, I found smooth, creamy textures offset by mouthwatering brisk acidity, as red berry fruits turned savory and spicier over time. The finish was long and dark, yet the ‘13 Figgins remained spry and light on its feet throughout. (93 points)

Figgins Riesling Estate 2016 – What a seductive bouquet, with ripe peach and sweet herbs offset by a spritz of lime and minerals. With time in the glass, it gained richness and spice. On the palate, I found soft yet energetic textures with ripe stone fruits and citrus-driven acidity. The finish was fresh and mouthwatering with hints of tropical fruits and tart citrus. Yum! (90 points)

Article and Tasting Notes: Eric Guido

Photos by Eric Guido, Garret Dostal, and courtesy of Leonetti Cellars

For more info on Figgins Family Wine Estates

Click HERE for the full selection of Leonetti wine at Morrell

Talking the Talk and Walking the Walk with Kelley Fox

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The average person spends most of their youth trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives before having to make the ultimate decisions about college or graduate schools.

2014 Maresh: courtesy of Mikhail Lipyanskiy

These decisions define us in today’s world. Yet more and more often, we see people changing paths after decades of study–you can even count me among them.

In fact, it’s almost become accepted that the average person doesn’t truly understand their direction in life until they’re thirty. In this train of thought, you have to wonder how many people in this world are out there doing jobs they never really wanted to do, specializing in fields they have no passion for, and producing a substandard product as a result.

The good news is that many of us have the courage to do something about it and change the course of our lives. One such person is Kelley Fox, and what she’s done with her life is really something quite special.

Maresh vineyard: courtesy of Mikhail Lipyanskiy

After completing a B.S. in Psychology, with a minor in Biology and degrees in Biochemistry and Biophysics, Kelley was admitted to the PhD program in Biochemistry from the Oregon State University–yet never completed her doctorate. Instead, she made the decision to become an Oregon winemaker, which she accomplished entirely through the experience of working in the vineyards and cellars of the region, including time spent alongside David Lett of The Eyrie Vineyards, which deeply influenced her. Starting in 2005, she began work as the winemaker at Scott Paul while also pursuing her own dream of create Kelley Fox wines, which saw its first release with the 2007 vintage.

Fast forward to today, where Kelley Fox Wines is now being talked about among collectors and critics as one of the under-the-radar producers of Oregon, making wines that transcend the region and the stereotypes of domestic Pinot Noir. Kelley now works exclusively on her own wines, crafting a number of Pinot Noir bottlings from the historic Maresh Vineyard and demeter-certified Momtazi vineyards.

Photo courtesy of Mikhail Lipyanskiy

What separates her from the rest is her insistence on doing nearly everything on her own and in the most natural way possible, often by hand and maintaining a coexistence between herself and the vines.

While talking with Kelley, the first thing you quickly realize is that she is the genuine article. Many natural – organic – biodynamic winemakers talk the talk, but when their hand is on the table, what you find isn’t always exactly what you expected. This is not the case with Kelley, who not only practices a completely natural approach to winemaking–but literally lives a natural approach to winemaking.

Red Barn: courtesy of Mikhail Lipyanskiy

At one moment, we would be talking about the trees throughout her vineyards and how they affect each parcel, and then the conversation would swing to the strict diet that she maintains and her belief in the connection between the vineyard and the person who tends it. If for a moment you start to think this sounds like some new-age marketing, I assure you it’s not. Tasting the wines is enough to convince you that what you have in front of you is not just a product or a the result of a process–instead it is a pure expression of vineyard, fruit, and the naturally-occurring yeasts that fermented it. There’s no new wood, and the wines from the 2014 vintage on are fermented on 100% whole clusters.

Purity is the word that comes to mind with each sniff or sip from the glass. These are remarkably pretty wines with a depth that is unmatched by most. While the house specialties of Maresh and Momtazi vineyards continue to define the style, Kelley also crafts a second wine from both, which allows us to experience each terroir at a price that is incredibly fair in today’s market of Pinot Noir. Ahurani shows the earth, power and minerality of the McMinnville Foothills Momtazi, while Mirabai displays the elegance and depth of fruit found in the Dundee Hills Maresh.

That said, experimentation continues at Kelley Fox, with talk of an amphora-aged Pinot Gris and the further development of individual blocks within each of her vineyards. It’s an exciting time for her and for us, because these are very special wines at a relatively affordable cost.

My only fear is that, as word gets out, will we be able to find the Kelley Fox wines that we’ve fallen in love with? Only time will tell.

On to the tasting notes:

2015 Kelley Fox Wines Pinot Noir Mirabai (Maresh fruit) – The nose showed incredibly fresh red berry and cherry fruit, along with plum, herbal tea leaves, clove, and minerals. It was wonderfully refined on the palate yet soft with pure red berry and blue fruits, inner florals and hints of citrus zest. The long, lingering finish was redolent of mineral-tinged blueberry skins. (91 points)

2015 Kelley Fox Wines Pinot Noir Ahurani (Momtazi fruit) – The bouquet was a gorgeous display of tart red fruits, wild herbs, sweet tea leafs, and dusty spice. On the palate, I found rich dark red fruits with iron-born minerality, The finish was long with lasting minerality and lingering tart red fruits. Floral, herbal, and mineral, this Pinot is right up my alley and an amazing value. (92 points)

2015 Kelley Fox Wines Pinot Noir Maresh Vineyard – The ‘15 Maresh came across as more refined than the ‘14 next to it, with mineral-strewn black cherry, mulling spice, and over time, exotic herbs. On the palate, it was remarkably fresh with pure red fruits, soft enveloping textures, and inner floral and herbal tones. The finish was pure and lifted with florals, moist earth, and a coating of persistent dry berry extract. (94 points) find it at Morrell

2014 Kelley Fox Wines Pinot Noir Mirabai (Maresh fruit) – The nose showed pure ripe fruit, fresh strawberry, sweet floral tones, and hints of savory herbs. On the palate, I found lifted bright textures, soft yet and vibrant with stunning purity, exotic inner floral tones, strawberry, hints of tannic grip. It was incredibly fresh throughout the finish, with juicy acidity and staying minerality. (91 points)

2014 Kelley Fox Wines Pinot Noir Maresh Vineyard – The nose was intense with a mix of wildberry, strawberry and dusty cinnamon and spice, then turning more to minerals and crushed fall leaves. On the palate, I found silky, enveloping textures with ripe red fruits, hints of exotic spices, and inner floral tones. The finish was long with spicy red fruit and hints of grippy tannin. The 2014 seems to be getting better and better. (94 points) find it at Morrell

Article, Tasting Notes and Label Images by: Eric Guido

Vineyard photos courtesy of Mikhail Lipyanskiy Photography

Kelley Fox Wines Website

Find Kelley Fox wines at Morrell Wine & Spirits

The Essence of Burgundy – Domaine de la Romanee-Conti

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There are names within the world of wine that every consumer-turned-wine enthusiast learn quickly as they begin to explore their vinous curiosities. Each region seems to have such a name–call it an icon–which somehow transcends more than just the place, but becomes a beacon of the region and is regarded as that which represents its essence. In Burgundy, that name is without a doubt, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.

Seeming to be a continent of its own amidst a sea of islands that make up the producers of Burgundy, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti stands not just for what many believe to be the epitome of what the region can produce, but has also achieved a level of value in the world’s eyes that permits their wines to be released at a price that is unmatched throughout much of the world. Driven solely by the market that has grown to love it, consumers and collectors continue to search for these wines the world over, and pay dearly to own and experience them first-hand.

As a wine lover and an explorer of Burgundy, I became fully aware of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (or DRC), over twelve years ago, which was eleven years prior to the first chance I ever had to taste one. So it goes, as the mystery and obscurity of DRC may be unmatched by any other producer.

Bernard Noblet

When you consider this, you can likely imagine how excited I was when I had my first chance to experience these wines and taste in the cellar with Bernard Noblet (DRC’s cellar master) in the summer of 2016. Following Bernard from barrel to barrel was unforgettable. The man exuded passion for the wines and terroir. Even as he emptied his glass, he would continue to nose the bouquet that was emanating from the empty vessel. I felt both honored and quite satisfied to be in the company of both the wines and the man who tends for them in the cellar.

Fast forward now to the official showing of the 2014 vintage in NYC, headed by Aubert de Villaine, the co-director of DRC himself, as he took us through the intricacies of the vintage and spoke of a deep-rooted attachment that he felt for the land and environs of Burgundy. He expressed in detail how each climat was so unique and continued to surprise him to this very day.

The 2014 vintage in Burgundy was one that started with a mild winter that displayed damp conditions, yet resulted in a spring of remarkable balance and beauty. The early flowering was welcome in these conditions. Then, at the end of June, the region was shaken by an extreme storm and hail, which wasn’t as severe in Vosne-Romanee, which Domaine de la Romanee-Conti calls home. These storms were followed by scorching heat, which naturally reduced yields in the vineyard as many berries simply burned and dried. Then in July came cooler temperatures, cloudy skies and lasting rain.

If there’s one thing that I’ve come to know about vintages in Burgundy, it’s that vignerons are constantly in a state of worry, playing a waiting game and watching as Mother Nature consistently delves out the ups and downs of each season. Just as I’m sure many producers worried through the summer months, in early September they were relieved by a lasting dry warmth and plenty of sunshine. One last storm in mid September worried producers again, as they feared the onset of botrytis, yet as Aubert de Villaine explained to us at the event, the unusually thick skins of the grapes, which formed through the ups and down of the vintage, protected them. The following week provided warmth, dry conditions and exactly what the region needed to complete the ripening process through harvest.

The result of this arduous vintage are wines that speak volumes to longtime Burgundy lovers. The 2014s aren’t big, ripe wines, nor are they brooding and structured. Instead, the ‘14s are finessed and ever present with gorgeous balancing acidity.

The bouquets on most Pinots are layered and refined with masses of exotic florals, herbs and spice. They keep you coming back to the glass over and over again, and provide an inviting aura leading up to the first sip. On the palate they are refined, with crunchy red fruits and often reflect the same floral tones introduced on the nose. I find the balance and energy in these wines to be extremely pleasurable.

As for the whites, they seem to be even better, as a level of natural richness and concentration is contrasted by mineral-driven acidity and cut. The best of them are layered and pulsating with flavor, yet also soothing and elegant. The 2014 Montrachet from DRC is a perfect example of the balancing act that Chardonnay has accomplished.

It was quite a tasting across the board. Domaine de la Romanee-Conti has created a set of wines in 2014 that evoke a spirit of classic Burgundy. I don’t see these appealing to the mass market, but to the Burgundy purist, to the lover of refinement, and to anyone seeking the tremendous beauty that can be obtained through labor in the vineyards and cellars.

On to the wines:

Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Corton Domaine Prince Florent de Merode 2014 – The 2014 Corton displayed a remarkably beautiful bouquet with gorgeous red berries and spice, which became more floral over time with hints of rosemary and marine minerality. On the palate, I found lifted, almost weightless textures with pure red fruits, inner florals and sweet herbs. The finish was medium in length, closing on tart red berries and lasting minerality. This was an extremely feminine and pretty expression of Corton. (94 points)

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Echezeaux 2014 – At first the nose was dark and restrained, yet time in the glass revealed a captivating bouquet of dried flowers, wet stone, and hints of undergrowth, which gave way to crushed wildberry. On the palate, I found soft textures offset by brisk acidity with herbal-infused red berry. With time, the Echezeaux textures turned more refined and lifted, showing wonderful balance. The finish was long, with hints of fine tannin and saturating tart red berry fruit. (95 points)

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grands Echezeaux 2014 – The nose was spicy with crushed raspberry giving way to dried flowers, then crushed stone with hints of bell pepper. On the palate, I found angular textures with crunchy red fruits, which were tart yet brought to life by zesty acidity. The finish was medium-long with hints of herbs and tart berry, seeming almost to close in on itself. (93 points)

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanee-St-Vivant 2014 – The nose showed exotic floral and spice tones with crushed violets and marine-influenced minerality. On the palate, I found lifted, yet structured textures with lasting inner floral tones that seemed nearly identical to those found on the nose. It finished on tart blackberry and herbal tones. (93 points)

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg 2014 – At first, I found a dark and brooding display on the nose, which opened up to become one of the most gorgeous expressions you can imagine, as spicy, almost black fruit and minerals gained floral lift and an earthiness that I can best describe as like digging through the actual soil of Richebourg itself. On the palate, soft textures were contrasted by lifting acidity and minerality, as dark red fruits and spice seemed to touch upon all of the senses. Edgy and interactive throughout the finale, this finished with palate-coating dark red fruit and streamlined acidity that made the mouth water. What a thrilling wine at this young stage. (97 points)

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tache 2014 – On the nose, I found dark floral laced fruits and crushed stone with hints of smoke and rich brown spice. On the palate, soft, embracing textures were offset by a laser beam of bright acidity, which ushered in notes of black and wild berry fruit. The finish was long with saturating dark fruit and a mix of exotic spice and smoke. (96 points)

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanee-Conti 2014 – The bouquet was restrained at first, with dusty dried florals, violets, and black cherry. On the palate, I found a lifted and pure expression, seeming almost weightless as it hovered over the senses with inner floral and herb-tinged red fruits. The finish was long with tart berry fruits that saturated the senses, as fine tannin lingered on. This is just a baby today and hard to read, but there’s so much tension in the glass that I can only imagine it getting even better over time. (96 points)

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Montrachet 2014 – The bouquet seemed to leap from the glass, showing ripe apple, with yellow flowers, and crushed stone minerality. It was energetic on the palate, with a sweet-and-sour yellow fruit profile, where mango, young peach and pear mixed with sweet inner florals and brisk acidity. The finish was long, as it seemed to coat the senses, yet it also cleansed the palate and remained spry and lively. (94 points)

Article, Tasting notes and Photos by: Eric Guido

The Official website of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

Imported by Wilson Daniels

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti at Morrell


The Apogee of Germany’s Dry Wine Revolution

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The Dry Riesling movement has been in full swing now for many years in Germany. While in U.S. markets, consumers still think of Riesling as an easy-going, off-dry white with a fun zing of acidity. The reality is that Germany is now producing some of the most exciting, world-class, dry (Trocken) Rieslings we have ever encountered. A number of producers have been at the forefront of this movement. I have recently been touting the name Keller, in the Rheinhessen, with their tremendous Trocken and Grosses Gewächs. Yet, just west of this region we find the Nahe, and a winery making some of the most exciting wine in Germany today: Emrich-Schonleber.

Here, it is the story of a forward-thinking family and two amazing vineyards. With a vine-growing history that goes back over two centuries, it wasn’t until the 1960s when Werner Schonleber worked with his father to reform their family farm and focus on the vineyards and winemaking. His primary goal was to reclaim the greatness of two of the Nahe’s most prestigious locations, Frühlingsplätzchen and Halenberg. At the time, their holdings consisted of only 5 acres mixed throughout the two locations. Yet today, the family is in full control of a total of 44 acres spread across the region, but focus primarily in their historic Grand Cru family vineyards.

Werner’s son, Frank Schonleber, took a special interest in winemaking over the past decade, and worked to focus the family’s efforts on the categories of Trocken and Grosses Gewächs. The recent success that Emrich-Schonleber has enjoyed is very much the result of Frank’s forward-thinking methods in the cellar, which include spontaneous fermentation and treating each individual parcel in a way that he feels will best accentuate the translation of each unique terroir. To achieve his goal, there are no strict rules to barrel size, aging vessel or the time it takes for each wine to mature before release.

The combination of Werner’s work and strict selection in the vineyards, the family’s holdings in two of the most prestigious sites in the region, and Frank’s methodologies in the cellar, has catapulted the wines of Emrich-Schonleber to the apogee of Germany’s dry wine revolution.

That said, they aren’t cheap, but the reality is that the majority of German wine in this category is currently undervalued, and I believe the day will come when these wine are looked back upon as relative values as they mature for decades in our cellars.

On To The Wines:


Emrich-Schönleber Riesling Kabinett Monzinger 2014 – On the nose I found light lemon and sweet, spiced pear. It was vibrant on the palate, with soft textures and spiced pear, yet it’s a bit one-dimensional. The finish was incredibly long on ripe pear with great acidity. Yet there’s a level of depth that’s missing in this spicy and soft Kabinett. (90 points)

Emrich-Schönleber Riesling Trocken 2015 – The nose showed floral undergrowth, ripe melon, and hints of herbs. On the palate, I found zesty textures with savory, mineral-driven stone fruits and hints of lemon. Tart citrus and minerals lasted long on the finish. (91 points)

Emrich-Schönleber Riesling Troken Mineral 2015 – The nose showed intense minerality with lime and green apple. On the palate, I found silky, acid-driven, mineral textures, with ripe citrus and green apple. The finish was fresh and laden with minerals. (92 points)

Emrich-Schönleber Riesling Lenz 2015 – The nose was floral and rich with ripe stone fruits. On the palate, I found weighty textures with intense green apple acidity, spice, minerals and inner florals. The finish was remarkably long with tart apple and citrus. (93 points)


Monzinger Halenberg

I must admit that of the two Schonleber crus, that Halenberg is my favorite. The stoney blue slate and quartz soils force the vines in Halenberg to dig deep for nutrients, which helps explain the structure and mineral intensity found throughout these wines. Also, don’t skip the Halenberg Trocken (renamed Hagans in 2014), while this may be seen as a second wine, I promise you that it’s only a baby-step below the pricier GG.

Emrich-Schönleber Riesling Monzinger Halenberg Trocken Halgans 2014 – Here I found a wonderfully fresh and vibrant bouquet, with crushed stone and yellow florals. On the palate, soft, mineral-driven textures gave way to notes of green apple. It was long and tart on the finish, with stone fruit and citrus, and a zing of minerality. (92 points)

Emrich-Schönleber Riesling Monzinger Halenberg Trocken 2012 – Another fantastic performance, the bouquet was gorgeous, opening with intense minerality and wet slate, gaining richness in the glass, as notes of peach and pineapple formed, then changed to smoke, crushed stone and floral undergrowth. On the palate, it showed razor-like focus with tantalizing acidity, giving way to notes of melon, green apple, minerals and lime. There’s so much tension here as a coating of minerals and citrus saturated the senses, made the checks pucker, and lasted for up to a minute. (94 points) @morrell

Emrich-Schönleber Riesling Trocken GG Monzinger Halenberg 2014 – The nose showed savory minerality with an almost seashore quality, before going to floral undergrowth, minerals, and washed cheese rind. On the palate, it was textural with balanced acids paving the way for ripe stone fruits, intense, chalky minerality, and inner florals. The finish was intense with tart citrus, minerals, melon and inner floral tones. (94+ points) @morrell

Emrich-Schönleber Riesling Monzinger Halenberg ‘R’ 2012 – The nose was massive yet refined, with ripe peach and pear giving way to minerals, spice and floral undergrowth. On the palate I found soft, voluptuous textures with ripe stone fruits and great acidity, soothing the palate, along with inner florals, and hints of lemon. It coated the palate in pure melon and stone fruits, with lingering floral tones, in an amazingly long expression. (96 points) @morrell

Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen

Defined by it’s red slate and gravel soils, along with a 70% incline at its steepest point, the Monzinger Fruhlings Platzchen enjoys southeast to southwest exposures and creates Riesling of undeniable finesse and elegance.

Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Frühtau 2015 – The nose showed intense crushed-stone minerality, floral undergrowth, and green apple. On the palate, I found soft textures with ripe stone fruits and citrus. The finish was remarkably long with tart citrus and melon. I wanted more acidity. (91 points)



Article and tasting notes by: Eric Guido


The Vintage We’ve All Been Waiting For: 2013 Barolo

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For the last two weeks NYC has been honored to host the who’s who of Piedmont for Antonio Galloni’s La Festa del Barolo, and with many of these producers came my first taste of 2013 Barolo from bottle. Let me just say that the hype is officially warranted.

Over the last two years we’ve been hearing hints about the possibility that 2013 could be the next great vintage. Producers would wax poetic over their expectations, and as friends returned from the region having tasted from barrel, each one would go on and on about the vintage.

The first clues we had to the potential of 2013 came from Antonio Galloni of Vinous, who is constantly on the ground in Piedmont and tasting across a wide range of both young and mature wines. I still think back to his 2012 Barolo article “Grace Under Pressure”, where he tipped his hat in saying “The 2013 Barolos I have tasted from cask are aromatically compelling, rich and structured; in other words super-classic. At their best, the 2013s come across as slightly richer versions of the 2010s.” The comparison to 2010 and the thought of an added level of richness set my imagination on fire.

However, there was another thing to consider, and that’s the escalation of Barolo prices and how important it is to get in as early as possible, especially when you consider the mad dash that collectors made for the 2010’s. All of this has cumulated into one of the most highly anticipated vintages that I have ever witnessed.

And so, as the list of Barolo producers who would be in town for La Festa grew, my message to everyone I knew was to please, please, please let me taste some 2013 Barolo–and my wish was granted.

Chiara Boschis, Elisa Scavino, Fabio Alessandria, and Giuseppe Vajra all took the time to taste and talk with me about the vintage, and what I found was nothing short of spectacular. The 2013 vintage was defined by wet and humid conditions in the spring, yet balanced out into a long and warm growing season, followed by the perfect yin and yang of warm days and cool nights in the fall. The result was a perfect crop for any producer who tended their vineyards with care. Giuseppe Vajra, of G.D. Vajra, told me that he “…feels like the 2013 vintage is closest to the 2008s,” which happens to be one of his all time favorites.

For me, I find the structure of 2010, the aromatics of 2012 and the vibrancy of 2008, but we can talk in these terms for days. In the end, these are some of the most enjoyable young Barolos I’ve ever tasted. They posses stunningly layered aromatics, which continue to open in the glass over time, coupled with beautifully refined tannin, depths of fruit and enveloping textures. Frankly, it was difficult to pick favorites in nearly every tasting. I also couldn’t help but notice how enjoyable the Barolos made from a blend of vineyards were as well. The Paolo Scavino Barolo and Carobric, the Chiara Boschis Via Nuova, and the Vajra Albe were all amazing wines that will be thrilling us for decades to come.

I’m happy to say that 2013 Barolo will be arriving on our shores very soon, and I will certainly be a buyer. Let the hunt begin.


On to The Tasting Notes:


2013 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole – The nose showed incredible depth with exotic floral tones, saline minerals, a bit of marine flora, plum, dusty spice and rosy florals. On the palate, I found mineral-laden cherry, cranberry, inner floral tones, exotic spice, and exquisitely fine tannin. The finish was long, long, long with masses of inner floral tones and dried berries. This wine has a long life ahead of it, and I can’t wait to see where it’s going. (97 points)

2013 Vietti Barolo Rocche di Castiglione – The nose was gorgeous and lifted with bright rosy floral tones, brilliantly pure red fruits, dusty earth, soaring minerality, wet stone, and exotic spices. On the palate, I found feminine textures with tart red cherry, herbs, inner florals and gorgeous, balancing acidity. It finish long and fresh on sweet herbs, minerals and fresh cherries. This is classic Rocche. (97 points)

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric dël Fiasc – The nose showed intense mineral-infused red berry, cherry, cranberry and hints of plum with a savory edge, then evolving into mint, licorice, undergrowth and hints of herbs. On the palate, silky yet massive textures gave way to a dark mix of both ripe black and tart red fruits, with notes of dark earth, minerals and a twang of bitter herbs. Tannins saturated the senses, yet they weren’t drying or tiring, as a coating a dark red fruits soothed the palate. This was a remarkably balanced Bric del Fiasc that is deceptive in its early appeal. (97 points) @morrell

2013 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo Vigneto Cannubi – The nose showed masses of dark red fruits, crushed berries, wild herbs, pretty floral tones, and dusty spices, yet through the entire experience remained floral and finessed. On the palate, I found, dense, silky textures which coated the senses with notes of crushed berry and strawberry, before transitioning to inner florals and leather tones. It was much more lifted and refined than expected, with a long finish, displaying fresh red fruits and inner floral tones. (96 points)

2013 Vietti Barolo Ravera – The nose is incredibly deep, rooted in minerals, earth and spice, with dark floral tones, black cherry, plum, blackberry and mint. With time it opened even more to to reveal ethereal florals and herbs. On the palate, I found elegant, velvety textures, with sweet tannins and brisk mineral-laced acidity, giving way to dark fruits, minerals, plum, dried citrus, and hints of lavender. The finish was incredibly long with saturating dark fruits, yet youthfully tannic and closed in on itself. (96 points)

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo Carobric – The nose on the ‘13 Carobric was stunning. Here I found a layered, lifted and classic mix of crushed cherry, rosey florals, minerals and undergrowth, which turned savory over time, adding hints of dark spices and tobacco. On the palate, I found a vibrant yet silky expression with depths of red cherry playing a sweet-and-sour act on the senses, along with savory herbs and zesty acidity. It finished fresh yet structured on cherries and spice. (96 points) @morrell

2013 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo Monvigliero – This is unmistakably Monvigliero. The nose displayed black olive, savory herbs, exotic florals, crushed strawberry, and Indian spice. On the palate, I found soft textures with pure red berry fruit, inner florals and a balanced mix of fine-grained tannins and brisk acidity. It was lifted, pure and classically structured throughout. The finish was long of dried cherry, strawberry and floral tones. (96 points)

2013 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito – Here I found a dark and brooding bouquet of black and red fruits, moist earth, minerals, fresh mint, and hints of exotic spices. On the palate, I found silky, enveloping textures laced with fine tannin, giving way to saturating dark red fruits, hints of spice and bitter herbs. The finish went on and on–and on–with minerals, mint and a bitter twang of herbs. This an amazing vintage for Lazzarito. (96 points) @morrell

2013 E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Cannubi – This is a chameleon of a wine, with a bouquet that showed medicinal herb, raspberry, at times almost dark syrupy, then turning to black cherry, balsamic tones, giving way to minerals, dusty exotic spices and earth. On the palate, I found silky textures (very textural and dark – almost imposing at times) and dark red fruits which coated the wine’s fine tannin and saturated the senses over time. It was imposing and intense on the long finish, as fine grain tannin coated the senses, yet it’s wonderfully balanced. This should have some future in store. (96 points) @morrell

2013 E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Via Nuova – The nose was remarkably pretty with dark red fruits, roses, minerals, and exotic spices. It was brooding and at times reticent, until a note of minerals and crushed stone joined the fray. On the palate, I found lean, dense textures with dark red berry fruit laced with minerals and a web of fine tannin that saturated the senses. It was amazingly long on saturating dark red fruits and tannin. So classic. (95 points) @morrell

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo Cannubi – The ‘13 Cannubi was a dark and imposing wine of massive depth. Here I found notes of black cherry, sweet herbs, dark chocolate, dusty spice, and crushed stone. On the palate, a massive wave of velvety textures flooded the senses, and red and black fruits gave way to fine tannin. It was quite monolithic yet not over the top, and it tempted me with what was yet to come. The finish displayed intense tart black and red fruits with lasting minerality, seeming to create a black hole on the palate. I can’t even imagine what this wine will reveal in the decades to come, but I’m sure it will be something very special. (95 points) @morrell

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bricco Ambrogio – This showed a stunning array of aromatics, as eucalyptus and mint opened up to become tart cherry, roses, minerals and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, I found weighty textures of sheer silk, yet lively and balanced, as notes of plum and black cherry gave way to savory tones of salinity and herbs. It finished long on black cherry, spices and fine-grain tannin. (95 points) @morrell

2013 Luigi Baudana Barolo Baudana – The nose was dark and rich with brown spices, crushed blackberry, a dusty mix of minerals and spice with a hint of animal musk. On the palate, I found remarkably soft, velvety textures with zesty black fruits, ripe plum and a bitter hint of herbal spice. It was at once youthfully tannic, yet fresh with a dark and imposing persona, finishing long with dark red fruits, saturating spice and a coating of fine tannin. (95 points)

2013 Luigi Baudana Barolo Cerretta – The nose was spicy, with sweet florals and minerals, tart cherry, wild berry, and brown spices. Over time it became more polished and dark fruited, yet never losing it’s mineral thrust. On the palate, it was dark yet lifted and fresh with notes of wild herbs, blackberry and gruff tannin. Drying over time with youthful tannin, the finish was long and structured, only hinting at fruit. The cerretta will require many years in the cellar to show its best. (94 points)

2013 E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Mosconi – The nose was polished yet earthy, showing dark red fruits with dusty spices, crushed stone minerality, dark earth and floral tones. On the palate, I found pure, silky textures offset by vibrant acidity with tart red fruits, fine tannin and with a zesty acidity that created a bright expression with inner rosy florals. It finished long with tart berries and clenching young tannin. (94 points)

2013 Vietti Barolo Brunate – The nose was dark and rich, showing mineral-laced floral tones, iron, hints of sweet dark spices, and balsamic tones. On the palate, I found savory, silky textures, with dark red berries, plum, and hints of balsamic. It finished incredibly long and brooding with penetrating notes of dark red berries and dried spices. (94 points) @morrell

2013 G.D. Vajra Barolo Ravera – What an incredible bouquet on the 2013 Ravera. Here I found sweet dark florals, and brown spices in an exotic and hauntingly beautiful mix, than minerals, earth and undergrowth come forward. On the palate, I found soft textures with ripe dark red fruits, minerals and slow mounting tannin. It finished refined with saturating, brooding tannin and caking minerality. (94 points)

One of the absolute, best values you can find in 2013 Barolo!

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo – This displayed a remarkably layered and engaging bouquet for an entry-level offering. Here I found woodsy earth tones with hints of mint, opening to mineral-infused cherry and tobacco. On the palate, I found lifted textures with a fine web of crystalline tannin that gently caressed the senses, as notes of tart cherry were smoothed out by zesty acidity. It finished long and structured on tart cherry and herbs. This was a fantastic showing. (94 points) @morrell

2013 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo Acclivi – What an exotic and floral bouquet, showing wild herbs, strawberry and hints of rose. On the palate, I found soft textures offset by tart red berry, inner floral tones and dusty spices. It finished dry with a coating of fine tannin and masses of dry extract. (93 points)

2013 Vietti Barolo Castiglione – The nose opened with hints of cedar dust, dried cherries, and crushed fall leaves. On the palate, I found refined and silky textures, with pure red fruits, spice, intense minerals and savory depth. The finish was long with hauntingly dark floral tones and hints of bitter herbs. (93 points)

2013 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe – The bouquet displayed intense bright cherry, mint, pine, hints of cedar, roses and spice. On the palate, I found silky textures with a cherry and plum mix, lifted by wonderfully balanced acidity and a hint of youthful tannin. The finish was long with a coating of tart cherry, blackberry, medicinal herbs and hints of spice. (93 points)

2013 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo – The nose was gorgeous, showing crushed raspberry, hints of herbs, and dusty spice. On the palate, I found soft textures, lifted by pure red fruits, inner floral tones and light tannin. It was remarkably pure, leading in a long finish with hints of tannin and inner floral tones. (92 points)

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo Monvigliero – The nose displayed sweet herbs, undergrowth and cherry liquor. On the palate, silky textures were offset by a bitter twang of tart red fruits and herbs, as the Monvigliero maintained its freshness through zesty acidity. The finish was long with saturating dark red fruits, spice and mint. I enjoyed this quite a bit, yet it lacks the textural heft that brings balance throughout the rest of the lineup. (92 points) @morrell

Article, Tasting Notes and Photos by: Eric Guido

The Comeback Vintage: 2012 Brunello di Montalcino

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Welcome to Benvenuto Brunello 2017

The first time I heard a reference to the 2012 vintage was while tasting the 2010 Brunellos at Benvenuto over two years ago. The problem was that the 2010’s were so promising upon release, that as often as we were told that the 2012 Rossos showed the tremendous potential of the vintage ahead, we simply couldn’t get past the excitement of the ‘10s. After all, this was the vintage that drew a line in the sand, and brought consumers back to Brunello after years of lackluster vintages.

Then came 2011, where the ripeness of fruit could literally be felt as it saturated the senses, and, in my case, actually made my teeth ache. We were told that this wasn’t such a bad thing and that the wines would be great for near-term consumption. Unfortunately, with the exception of only a small number of producers, 2011 remains a vintage in which I found very little to get excited about.

However, we can put that all aside, because now that the 2012 vintage is hitting our shores, Brunello lovers have something to be excited about. Before I say anything else, let’s address the number one question on everyone’s mind: are these as good as the 2010’s? Unfortunately, that’s a difficult question to answer, because there is some variability that’s starting to become much more apparent throughout the region. The fact is that the terroir of Montalcino has become very important, and many consumers (and winemakers) aren’t really ready to talk about it.

You can see a trend in Montalcino, and that’s the release of single vineyard or parcel selected bottles that come either from the more northern vineyards or from the higher elevations of southern vineyards. The reason for this is the promise that these locations show in warmer vintages, and let’s be honest, 2012 was a warm vintage. Many people are avoiding that fact, as the term “warm vintage” has become synonymous with overripe. However, that is a broad generalization for a region that spans 24,000 hectares (that’s 59,000 acres), with altitudes ranging between 120 – 650 meters above sea level.

Francesco Ripaccioli of Canalicchio di Sopra, one of my top scoring ’12s

Just to put things in perspective, when many producers were asked about 2012, a large percentage compared the vintage to 2011 from the perspective of warmth and the length of the growth cycle. However, there was one very big difference. Where 2011 saw drastic spikes of heat throughout the season, 2012 remained consistently warm, which allowed the vines to adapt. 2012 was also very dry from winter through August, with just enough precipitation in the early fall to aid in maturation, yet the extended drought still resulted in a 14% smaller harvest than 2011.

So now that the numbers are out of the way, let’s talk about the wines. The 2012’s, in general, are mid-weight wines with gorgeous aromatics and intensely concentrated fruit on the palate that is offset by fresh acidity. In most cases the tannins are unexpectedly refined, especially considering the vintage conditions, and left me with a classic expression on the finish. At their best, they are enjoyable now on their freshness, (which isn’t something you’d expect from a ripe vintage, but that 2012 has in spades) yet also structured enough to go strong in the cellar for ten to fifteen years–and possibly beyond.

The pitfalls of the vintage lay in the lower elevations and areas that experience a more Mediterranean climate. Here we need to pick and choose. Though there are a number of standouts, such as the ever-reliable Il Poggione and Uccelliera, other producers turned out a set of wines that are highly enjoyable and easily gulpable, which ultimately is not what the average Brunello buyer is looking for.

When all is said and done, 2012 is the vintage we’ve been waiting for. These wines will not take twenty years to come around, yet are serious contenders for mid-term cellaring. They will be enjoyable early because of their aromatics and youthful appeal, but will also go the long haul in the cellar. In the end, it’s a highly enjoyable vintage and a perfect comeback following the 2011’s.

On To The Tasting Notes:

Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino 2012 – Upon first pour, the ‘12 Brunello was dark, imposing and monolithic; yet with time in the glass, an array of crushed cherry, sweet herbs, cedar, and moist earth tones came forward. On the palate, I found velvety textures with a fresh core of vibrant acidity adding verve, as notes of tart berry, cherry, plum and exotic spice set upon the senses. The finish was long and structured with herbal dark red fruits lasting throughout. I can imagine that five years or more will do this wine a lot good, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from there. (95 pointsFind it at Morrell

Tenuta Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino Vigna La Casa 2012 – The nose was intense and layered with fresh red berries up front, giving way to earth tones, savory herbs and minerals. On the palate, silky-broad textures coated the senses while tart red berry and zesty acidity provided lift. Hints of spice, leather and inner florals lasted on the finish, along with fine-grain tannin that promised years of development. (95 points)

Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino Filo di Seta 2012 – The nose was gorgeous, showing depths of black and red fruits, dark floral tones and notes of undergrowth. On the palate, I found soft, velvety textures which were contrasted by zesty acid, minerals and tart red fruits, with notes of spice and cedar. It finished long, structured and balanced with persistent red berry fruit and spice. What a difference this northwestern vineyard makes from the normale. This is a beautiful 2012 Brunello for the cellar. (94 points)

Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli 2012 – The nose was gorgeous with dark red fruits, plum, sweet florals, dark chocolate, and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, I found silky, deep textures which seemed to coat all of the senses, giving way to dried red berries, earth, leather tones and fine tannin. It finished structured, yet with a sweet tannin that was still coated in dark red fruit. (94 points) Find it at Morrell

Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Brunello di Montalcino 2012 – The nose was gorgeous with perfumed floral tones up front, giving way to notes of ripe strawberry, cranberry, dried spices and undergrowth. On the palate, I found soft textures offset by vibrant acidity and fine tannin, as inner florals, earth and berry tones soothed the senses. It finished long on dried berries, hints of spice and young tannin, promising many years of development. This was simply a pleasure to taste, and it is deceptively enjoyable today–as the best is yet to come. (94 points) Find it at Morrell

Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino 2012 – The nose was classic, displaying crushed strawberry, dusty florals, earth, leather and hints of cinnamon spice. On the palate, I found silky textures hosting notes of tart red berry, exotic spice, minerals, zesty acidity, and ending in a web of fine tannin. The finish was long and refined with a classic structure and persistent red fruits. This wine should have many, many years of development in store for us. (93 pointsFind it at Morrell

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello di Montalcino Prime Donne 2012 – The nose was deep and intense with luscious, ripe blackberry fruit tones backed by notes of sweet herbs and dusty florals. On the palate, I found an almost-juicy persona with vibrant yet silky textures showcasing black and red berries with savory mineral tones. It finished long and textural on sweet spice and cherry liquor. (93 points)

Capanna Brunello di Montalcino 2012 – The nose showed soaring dark red fruits and floral tones with hints of spice and damp earth. On the palate, I found velvety textures with smooth tannins, crushed strawberry, plum and sweet inner floral tones. The finish was long, showing dark fruits and fine tannin that coated the senses. (93 points)

Castelgiocondo (Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi) Brunello di Montalcino 2012 – The nose was dark with masses of sweet and spicy black cherry, chocolate and floral tones. On the palate, i found soft textures backed by intensely concentrated dark red fruits, spice and hints of mocha. Even through the richness in this glass, a wave vibrant acidity provided freshness, which lasted throughout the finish. This may not be my personal preference for Brunello, but it’s a solid performer for those looking for an extroverted style. (92 points)

Col di Lamo Brunello di Montalcino 2012 – The nose showed perfumed red berry fruit and floral tones with hints of dusty spice and wax. On the palate, I found silky, refined textures offset by saturating dark red fruits and fine tannin. Persistent red fruits continued to resonate on the finish, nearly masking the refined tannin that coated the senses. (92 points)

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello di Montalcino 2012 – The nose was dark and earthy with notes of crushed strawberry, exotic spices and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, I found silky textures on a medium-bodied frame with tart, dark red fruits and lifting inner floral tones. Its fine tannins made themselves known throughout the finish, along with a lasting impression of concentrated wild berry fruit. (92 points)

Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 2012 – Here I found a lifted mix of red berry fruit, plum, and dark chocolate. On the palate, silky textures were made vibrant though zesty acidity with spicy red fruits and hints of leather. It finished medium-long on dried strawberry and hints of herbs. Not too shabby. (92 pointsFind it at Morrell

Talenti Brunello di Montalcino 2012 – On the nose, I found perfumed florals, dark cherry, and hints of moist soil. Silky textures flooded the senses on a medium-bodied frame with notes of tart cherry and hints of herbs, yet there was a pleasing richness here that surprised me. The finish displayed medium length and fresh red fruits. (91 points)

Tenuta Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino 2012 – The nose displayed a perfumed bouquet with notes of tart red berry and minerals. On the palate, I found medium-bodied textures with dark red fruits ushered in by acid-driven silky textures. Hints of earth and spice lingered on the finish. (91 points)

Voliero Brunello di Montalcino 2012 – The nose was remarkably pretty and refined, displaying tart red berries, spice and dusty earth. On the palate, I found an intensely fruited burst of energy that leveled out into silky, balanced textures with a core of crystalline minerality and spice. The finish was long, with light tannins coating the senses and notes of dried cherry lingering long. (91 points)

Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello di Montalcino “P. 56” 2012 – The nose showed pretty red florals with dusty spice, minerals and hints of candied cherry. On the palate, I found soft textures offsetting persistent red berry fruits, dark earth and savory minerality. It finished on bitter cherry, spice and hints of fine-grained tannins. (91 points)

Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino 2012 – The nose displayed floral perfumes with notes of tart berry and crushed stone minerality. On the palate, I found dark, concentrated red fruits with grainy intensity and a core of savory minerals. It finished long on persistent red fruits and dry tannin. (90 points)

Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello di Montalcino 2012 – The nose displayed a mix of plum, cherry and cranberry, before giving way to woodsy earth tones and spice. On the palate, I found tart red fruits on a medium-bodied frame with a core of minerality which settled on the back palate. The finish shorter than expected, seeming almost hollow, with hints of bitter red fruits lingering. (89 points)

Pian Delle Vigne (Antinori) Brunello di Montalcino 2012 – The nose was dark, imposing and intense with spicy candied red fruit and notes of plum. On the palate, I found weighty textures with sweet and sour cherry and spice, yet one-dimensional. The finish was long with bitter dark red fruits. (88 points)

Fine Dining Any Day? Penne alla Vodka

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penne-1cropPenne alla Vodka, with a perfect pairing to match!

A recipe & pairing by: Eric Guido

I’ve posted quite a few recipes that could take from an hour to six hours of preparation and usually with a decent hit to the wallet. So I got to thinking about the average person or aspiring cook in this busy day and age. I know that entertaining can be laborious and often expensive, but what if you could make a pasta plate that could stand tall next to anything a restaurant has to offer and do it in under a half hour from start to finish? Then, what if I told you it could cost less than $30 to feed a party of four? Seems too good to be true? Well it’s not; it’s Penne alla Vodka.

Penne alla Vodka is not a traditional Italian preparation and searching for its roots leads to a wealth of disinformation and theories. What is fact is that ages ago it was realized that alcohol can help to bring out flavors in tomatoes that cannot otherwise be obtained through any other preparation (known as alcohol soluble). This is often why a red sauce will include wine in its list of ingredients. Not only does it help to bring out these flavors but it also imparts its own qualities to the sauce.

penne-12Penne alla Vodka is a balancing act of flavors. The sweet sautéed garlic and onions play against the woodsy and smoky pancetta. The crushed red pepper provides a heat that is kept in check by the addition of heavy cream, which also rounds out any rough edges left behind by the vodka. The tomatoes take center stage providing a deep, fresh, succulent tomato flavor that, I find, can only be achieved in this dish. Lastly, the basil grounds you in reality with an earthy, vegetal mintiness, which brings it all together… God I love Penne alla Vodka!

rossodimontalcinocanalicchiodisopraAs for the wine, pairing with this dish can be tricky. It’s a rich, cream based, tomato sauce so you’d think that any high acid red would do the trick. However, there’s a spiciness to this dish that would react badly to anything high in alcohol. This led me to think of Sangiovese, but in this case I wouldn’t go for something mature, as the tannins in a young will interact well with the cream sauce.  Lastly, in keeping with the value oriented theme of this recipe, let’s keep our pairing under $35 and make it easy to find.  I believe the answer is pretty obvious.  The perfect pairing here would be Rosso di Montalcino, and I can’t think of a better option than Canalicchio di Sopra, which is a property that has been truly exciting me over the last few years.

This is truly fine dinning in your home without the price tag or the hassle. Enjoy!



Penne alla Vodka

Serves 4 – 5 guests

penne-3A note on the ingredients: Try to find San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy. Believe it or not there are domestic brands that try to trick you with tomatoes of inferior quality and a completely different taste. Also, using penne “rigate” (instead of regular penne) is important because the texture holds the sauce to the penne. Lastly, an entire bottle of vodka is not included in the cost of the recipe and since it is only a ¼ cup, use the good stuff if you’ve got it. Remember, your food is primarily the sum of your ingredients.

  • 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 5 cloves minced garlic
  • ½ cup yellow onion cut into fine dice
  • ½ cup pancetta small dice
  • ¼ cup vodka
  • ¾ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 – 2 tbls olive oil
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (depending on your preference for spice)
  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • 8 fresh basil leaves cut chiffonade (This should not be done until the end of the cooking process.)
  • salt and pepper

While bringing a pot of salted water to a boil, measure out and prepare your ingredients.

penne-7Pour the tomatoes into a bowl and, with your hands, break up the tomatoes into small pieces. Remove any skins if they were left on the tomatoes.

In a large saucepan, pour in olive oil and set to medium flame. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the pancetta and cook until browned (about 4 minutes). Remove the pancetta from the pan and reserve as a garnish for later.

meatballs-2Add the onions and garlic to the pan and season well with salt. It is also at this time that you should add the pasta to the boiling water and set the timer for 1 minute short of the recommended cooking time. Cook the onion and garlic mixture until translucent (about 2 minutes).

Raise the heat to medium high, and add the red pepper flakes to the pan and stir. Pull the pan from the stove (away from the flame.  This is not a flambe) and add the vodka. Place back on the stove and add the tomatoes. Stir well to combine.

penne-11You should stir regularly as the sauce cooks over the medium high flame. Make sure that it does not begin to burn on the pan bottom. If the sauce appears to be reducing too quickly, lower the flame to medium.

About the same time that the pasta is done, add the cream to the sauce and stir to combine. Season the vodka sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Drain your pasta completely and quickly rinse out the pot and dry.

penne-14Pour the pasta back into the pot and add ½ cup of the grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and half of the brown pancetta. Stir them into the pasta and then pour the sauce into the pot. Move the pot onto a medium flame and continue cooking for one minute. Remove from the heat and stir well.

Allow the pasta and sauce to sit in the pot for two more minutes, stirring from time to time. This allows the pasta to absorb and integrate with the sauce. While the pasta is resting, cut your basil.

Stir one last time and ladle the pasta onto warmed plates. Dress with basil chiffonade, browned pancetta and a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Clean the rims of your plates with a warm, moist towel and serve.

2014 Canalicchio di Sopra Rosso di Montalcino – On the nose, I found fresh red floral notes offset by sweet strawberry and minerals. It was lifted and focused on the palate with pure red fruits, beautiful mouthwatering acidity and spicy grip. The finish was long, showing red berries, herbs and mineral tones. (91 points) at Morrell

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