Just before Memorial Day, we celebrated the redesign of Morrell Wine Bar with an open house for close friends and family. From rare, old Barolos to our standby Gosset-Brabant Champagne, guests tasted a some of our favorite current vintages and a selection from the expanded cellar, known as the Rare Wine Vault, in both the retail store and the wine bar spaces.

Morrell Fine Wine Merchants’ general manager Mark D. Smith offers a few notes on the large-format, vintage Barolos he decanted and poured as guests perused the brand-new, all-glass Rare Wine Vault in the newly redesigned retail store: 1961, 1970, 1971, and 1976.

First up was the Fontanafredda Barolo 1961, which “sadly, wasn’t up to snuff,” he says. “It was past its best, with very muted flavors, oxidized notes, and a complete lack of acidity.” Luckily, it was pulled from the lineup early on in the evening, so that guest could focus on the more vibrant Barolos, all of which showed quite well.

With classic notes of dried roses and dried cherries, the Borgogno 1970 fared well, with a hint of baked biscotti and fennel seed. The following, the Denigri Lorenzo 1971, was one of Smith’s favorites of the night. Smith explained it was in a much better place considering its age, featuring “dried cherry notes and some licorice, with a nice softness on the palate.”

The overwhelming favorite, by Smith and guests alike, was the Marchesi di Barolo 1976. “[It] had a lovely purity, being very clear,” Smith explained of this bottling. “The other wines, as lovely as they were, had a slight cloudiness.”

And while the 1976 displayed the character of a mature Barolo, it maintained its acidity. “Its acidity gave it a good liveliness and nicely balanced the wine against the mature aromas and flavors of dried fruits, flowers and tar.”