Saturday, October 30, 2010

2000: Barolo Retrospective

With 2010 almost at a close, I thought it would be a great time to check in on the 2000 vintage of Barolo. 2000 was a year that was highly acclaimed by critics and still to this day by many producers in Piedmont. It was a ripe vintage (much like 1990) but with many producers gearing their wines toward the modern side of the winemaking spectrum, it turned out many wines that showed beautiful young but are now coming across as disjointed. In some recent tastings, Baroli from 2000 have shown rough tannins against rich fruit, making them jammy or overly dark. However, there are still many highly enjoyable wines from this vintage and most are showing beautifully right now. The best rule of thumb is to go with the producers you know and trust.

It’s also important to note that many of the tasting notes you find, from when these wines were first released, are no longer a good gauge to go by when buying. A wine that was rated 95 points by a critic because of the wow factor of the vintage seven years ago may now be a bottle that is showing the signs of age in an unbalanced wine. One of the main things I took from this tasting was that the traditionally minded producers still managed to make wines that tread toward vibrancy and finesse while some of the modern producers here play on the strengths of the vintage and, even though they made wines that weren’t very representative of Barolo, they are still highly enjoyable.

I would recommend buying any of the wines from the notes below for near-term consumption and the best part is that you can still find them on retail shelves. If you want Barolo that will drink well tonight with just a few hours in decanter, look no farther.

Lastly, before I move onto the notes, I would be remiss not to mention the absolutely amazing food provided by i Trulli, located at E 27th St. New York, New York. I’ve gone on record saying that this is my favorite Italian spot in NYC and this dinner reconfirmed that sentiment. It was truly amazing in everyway.

On to the notes:

Conterno Fantino, Barolo Vigna del Gris 2000 – The nose showed dusty black cherry and cinnamon with hints of herbs and a bit of tar. On the palate, I found round, sweet then sour strawberry, spice, and honey tones that turned a bit drying into the finish as a wall of tannin coated the palate. This is a wine that I’d love to check in on in another five years. (90 Points)

Domenico Clerico, Langhe Arte 2000 – While not technically a Barolo, consisting of 85% Nebbiolo with Barbera and Cabernet, this wine managed to surprise me with its balance and complexity. The nose showed black berries, green pepper, flower petals and licorice. On the palate, I found sour cherry, mulling spice and meaty broth on a smooth, velvety frame. This wine came across as ripe yet finessed, making it an enjoyable sipper. (89 points)

Paolo Scavino, Barolo Carobric 2000 - The nose of the Scavino Carobric was worth the price of admission as aromas of black olive, rich brooding dark fruits and meaty broth wafted up from the glass. However, on the palate this wine lost my affection as sweet, candied red fruits and a dusting of spice reminded me of a Cali fruit bomb. The finish was surprisingly fresh with lasting notes of cherry. (88 Points)

Rocche Dei Manzoni, Barolo, Vigna Cappella di S. Stefano 2000 – At first, the nose showed dusty potpourri with raspberry fruit and a hint of vanilla, but with a little time in the glass, aromas of broth and mushrooms came forward, which grounded the ripe fruit, making this wine highly enjoyable. The palate was smooth and very autumnal with sweet red fruit, allspice and cinnamon leading to a long sour candy finish. For a wine I was afraid would be too ripe, this bottle showed beautifully, and although it may not be my preferred style of Barolo, there was no doubting the quality in the glass. (90 Points)

Brovia, Barolo Rocche 2000 – The Brovia Rocche was rich yet vibrant on the nose with scents of fall leaves, dried flowers and ripe strawberry fruit. On the palate, I found a soft, sweet expression of dark berries carried by vibrant acidity across the tongue with molasses and herbs rounding out the medium-long finish. This was one of the bottles that kept me coming back for more once the tasting was done. (92 Points)

Roagna, Barbaresco Paje 2000 - The nose on the Roagna Paje showed a darker side of Nebbiolo as aromas of buttery pastry crust and dark fruits dominated with floral and herbal tones. On the palate, there was a finessed expression of red berries, tealeaves, and hints of dark, dark chocolate. With time in the glass, more meaty and mineral notes came forward. This was a gorgeous glass of Barbaresco that seemed to be missing a bit of focus on the palate but was still highly enjoyable. (90 Points)

Bartolo Mascarello, Barolo 2000 - The Bartolo Mascarello, even being from the ripe 2000 vintage, showed beautifully fragrant and classic notes of Nebbiolo. The nose was floral with minerals, tight red fruit and beefy reduction sauce. The palate was fresh and lively with red cherry, roses, tobacco and tealeaf. This was a medium-bodied wine that showed its beauty through finesse as opposed to power, and it finished with red fruits and light cherry tobacco. (93 points)

Notes from other 2000 Baroli from 2010:

Elio Grasso Barolo Ginestra “Vigna Casa Maté” 2000 - The nose showed black cherry, roses, leather and a bit of heat that was moderate enough to not get in the way. On the palate, I found cherry and currant on a medium bodied frame with silky tannins. This wine balanced between ripeness and elegance as the finish carried sour red fruit to the close and stayed on the palate for what seemed like a full minute. (90 points)

Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Cascina Francia 2000 - The nose was big and ripe with black cherries, earth and a bit of raw beef. The palate was soft and full-bodied with dark red fruits, red beets and minerals that all turned a little sweet on the mid palate and led to a slightly tannic finish. I certainly don’t see this lasting decades but it was enjoyable and a good candidate for drinking 5 years plus. (92 Points)

Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia 2000 - The 2000 Aldo Conterno, Barolo Granbussia, showed candied red fruit with cedar, leather, crushed fall leaves and a seductive Christmas spice on the nose. On the palate, it was full-bodied and juicy with ripe strawberry, tobacco, licorice and spice. The finish was long, with red fruit, yet clean, showing silky tannin. This is an approachable bottle now, but it still shows a balance that promises many years of good drinking and, with all this ripe fruit, might one day be a truly classic Barolo. (96 Points)

Cavallotto, Barolo Riserva Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe 2000 - The nose was big and brooding with dark red licorice, rose petals, orange marmalade and a combination of things that I can best describe as sauerbraten sauce. On the palate, it was full bodied with vibrant acidity, showing sour raspberry fruit, rosemary, tar and clove. The finish was long with cranberry fruit and silky tannin. Gorgeous. (93 Points)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Producer Spotlight: L'Arco

Moving eastward from my beloved region of Piedmont and the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, we find another region that is different in every way; the Veneto.

The Veneto features big showy wines, from the vibrant, plush Valpolicella to the big and brooding Amarone. These are wines that are made by the hand of man through processes like Recieto (Appassimento), where the harvested grapes are left to dry for months before being pressed, raising sugar (hence alcohol) levels and giving the wine a haunting level of depth, complexity and the ability to age. There is also Ripasso, which is a process where the newly fermented juice (usually Valpolicella) is passed back over the lees of an Amarone fermentation, which adds depth and complexity to an otherwise fresh and easy, drinking wine. Be warned, however, that in the hands of some producers these techniques are used to cover up an otherwise inferior wine; but in the hands of quality producers they can create works of art (think Quintarelli). What it comes down to is that the Veneto is the perfect place to look to for a lover of big, bold Italian wines when you're in the mood for decadence instead of austerity.

Looking back on producers who stand out in the region, I think of Quintarelli, Masi, Marion, Alighieri, Bussola, Dal Forno, Alegrini and… L'Arco.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than stumbling upon a producer making a superior product that has yet to be reviewed by the major publications. L’Arco is just that. In a sea of mediocrity, in the land of many cellars (Valpolicella), L’Arco is producing wines that are vibrant, exuberant and down right sexy. Luca Fedrigo is the winemaker behind L’Acro. After working as the vineyard foreman and assistant to Giuseppe Quintarelli, Luca set out with Quintarelli’s help to start L’Arco.

I’ve been following these wines now for over a year and have tasted their entire lineup. Each bottle, from their Valpolicella rosso up to the Rubeo IGT, is stunning and returns relative value for their cost. The only problem is finding them in the States. The e-mail based wine retail company, Garagiste, has been known to sell the utterly captivating Valpollicella Superiore, and I have also been lucky enough to find them at a local retailer: Varietal Wine & Spirits. I would start here, but I would also recommend asking your local supplier about L’Arco wines, because a producer like this deserves a little more of the spotlight. (Even if my first urge is to keep it a secret for myself.)

On to the notes: And keep in mind, I don't usually throw big scores around.

2004 L'Arco Pario Veronese IGT - Italy, Veneto, Veronese IGT
L'arco took it up a step with the Pario in 2004. What came across as residual sweetness in the '03 has been turned into a sweet and sour effect on the palate of the '04. The nose was intense with dark port-like fruits, christmas spice and ginger bread. On the palate, I found a fresh sweet and sour play with a burst of spiced sour cherry and a dark run raisin that led into the long finish. This wine was, all at once, rich yet finessed and truly stunning on the nose. (95 pts.)

2003 L'Arco Valpolicella Classico Superiore - Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Valpolicella Classico Superiore
The nose at first showed rich chocolate covered cherry, but upon second sniff, the details begin to come forward with crushed fall leaves, undergrowth and cinnamon. The palate was remarkably finessed and showing ripe cherries, dried cherries, tobacco and flower petals. As it flowed across the mid-palate, bitters and spice yet somehow with slight sweetness. The finish was long... long... long with cherries and christmas spice.

My only regret is that I didn't buy more. This was a beautiful wine for the price. I could convince someone that this cost more than twice its price. Stunning. (93 pts.)

2004 L'Arco Rosso Veronese IGT - Italy, Veneto, Veronese IGT
A gorgeous floral nose with violets, blueberry and undergrowth. The palate showed blackberry and allspice with a juicy, almost sweet cherry fruit that washed across the mid-palate. The finish lasts, with cherry that turns a bit dry yet highly enjoyable. I found myself updating my last score since this had gone from bruiser to beauty since my last tasting. (90 pts.)

2003 L'Arco Amarone della Valpolicella Classico - Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
The color was dark red to almost black in the glass, showing aromas of plum, confectioners sugar, floral fall leaves, coca, roasted chestnut and cinnamon. On the palate, I found cherry cough syrup, raisin, more cinnamon, clove and dark chocolate. It was full and soft on the palate but carried by a hidden layer of acidity that kept it fresh. Lastly, is showed a long, long cherry, chocolate finish. This was the wow wine of the night.

Important to note that this wine was opened 12 hours before it was poured. (94 pts.)

2003 L'Arco Rùbeo Veronese IGT - Italy, Veneto, Veronese IGT
The color was a medium ruby red. The nose was seductive with candied cherry, brown sugar, tobacco, sage and hot chocolate powder. The palate was full with blackberries and plums followed by mushroom, clove and oak. Gorgeous! A long finish revealed cherry, cinnamon and flower petals. This was a great wine that really came to life after four hours in decanter. Made from a combination of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, rondinella and molinara, which are air dried for 60 days before pressing.(96 pts.)

Check out the L'Acro website here: L'Arco

Friday, October 15, 2010

Vintage Chianti Tasting at Tolani

Do you drink Chianti? If you answered no then I’d have to wonder what planet you’re from. What about aged Chianti? I’d be surprised if the average person has tasted Chianti with over ten years on it. Why? Well, because most people think of Chianti as an early drinking yet highly enjoyable wine with a night of pasta or pizza. However, three years ago I received an education in aged Chianti from Greg dal Piaz of On that night, the theme was Chianti Classico from 1990, and it changed the way I looked at Chianti forever.

Fast forward to October 2010 at a new restaurant on the upper west side: Tolani. After three years of experimenting with aged Chianti, the time was right for a more in-depth approach at understanding what can be achieved from these great Tuscan wines. Lucky for me, my friend Fernando Losada decided to organize a tasting centered on Sangiovese (the grape that makes Chianti, Chianti) with all bottles predating the year 2000.

With 12 bottles of the who’s who in Tuscany and eight tasters of impeccable repute, the decision was made that these wines were fabulas. What thrilled me the most was the utter level of rich, vibrant fruit and balance that was found in each glass. Even with two wines over 30 years old, we were amazed by the high level quality found from each bottle. What’s remarkable to me is that we often speak of how Italy has improved the level of quality and cleanliness in their cellars over the last decade, yet these wines showed that there were many producers that were far ahead of the curve in Tuscany.

My suggestion: search out some aged Chianti Classico from a reputable dealer, and find out for yourself. The wines below would certainly be a good place the start.

On to the notes:

1985 Boscarelli (Marchesi de Ferrari Corradi) Vino da Tavola – The nose opened up with ginger spice cookie, roasted sausage and potpourri with a mineral bass note that made this all at once savory, fruity and earthy. On the palate, I found lush black fruits that were spicy with a hint of black pepper leading to a dark soil note on the slightly tannic finish. I hope to be able to taste this again in a few years. (92 Points)

1985 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico Riserva – The nose showed dusty spiced cherry with hints of florist shop, undergrowth and a bit of old parchment. On the palate, I found tart, tight wild berry fruit and a hint of herbal tea. The finish was tight but showed this wine is still blossoming. (91 points)

1995 Stefano Farina Chianti Classico Le Bocce – The nose on this wine was immediately intriguing as it reminded me of the cooking process when making cranberry sauce. Aromas of red wild berries with a dark mulling spice quality rose up from the glass. On the palate, I found lush red fruits with a gorgeous balance of acidity verse richness, leading to a finish that was still tannic and showed a hint of anise. (91 Points)

1996 Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico – I found myself going back and forth between liking and disliking this wine as it showed incredible richness, yet had an almost dirty quality to it. The nose showed rich soil and sweet tea with red fruits and hard candies. On the palate, I found tart cherry with herbal tea, which led to a medium finish that left me with a rusty aftertaste. (85 points)

1991 Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva Badia a Passignano – On the nose I found ginger and spice with tart black fruit and a hint of charcoal and vanilla. The palate was structured and a bit restrained, with blackberry and tar. The finish was rich and long. (89 points)

1990 Villa di Vetrice Chianti Rufina Riserva (corked) – Too bad this bottle was corked because you could sense the quality that was fighting to stay in front of the mildew-like aroma the crept threw. Otherwise, I found a rich, spicy expression of dark fruit on the nose. On the palate, I found dark fruits and beef broth leading to a medium finish. (No score)

1995 Fattoria di Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia – The nose on the ’95 Rancia was floral with spice, cinnamon and a hint of stems. On the palate, I found smooth tart cherry and cedar with a beautiful balance of acidity verse structure, which led to a refined yet slightly restrained finish. (92 points)

1997 Marchesi Mazzei Chianti Classico Castello di Fonterutoli – On the nose, I found plum fruit with a dusting of confectioners sugar followed by veal reduction and cedar. On the palate, cherry was dominant with a musky, animal note. Bright sour fruit appeared on the finish. (86 points)

1997 La Massa Chianti Classico Giorgio Primo – I found restrained fruit on the nose, as sour berries and cinnamon gram come forward. On the palate, I found jammy cherry but little else and this wine lost momentum leading into the finish. (86 Points)

1997 Castello di Monsanto Tinscvil Toscana IGT – This wine showed a mix of blue and black fruit on the nose with hints of beefy broth. On the palate, I found sour cherries and bitters leading to a short tart finish. (86 points)

1977 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggio - The 1977 Monsanto, Il Poggio showed vibrant and fresh aromas reminding me of autumn with dried cherry, allspice and baking pie crust. On the palate, I found sweet cherry tobacco and cedar on a balanced and delicate frame. The finish was medium long with red fruit and hint of copper penny. An amazing bottle of wine. (95 points)

1980 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggio - The nose of this wine showed undergrowth and herbs with dusty dark fruit and a bit of old parchment paper. On the palate, I found tart yet delicate raspberry fruit, which led to a tannic anise finish that was a bit marred by acidity. (89 points)


2006 Szent Benedek Pinceszet Tokaji Remete - The nose showed apple and lemon curd with a mineral note. On the palate, I found fresh sour apple with hazelnut. This wine was rich yet refreshing all at once. (89 points)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Food and Wine in September

The fall has always been my favorite time of the year, and although most of September still feels like the summer, its those last two weeks when I start to feel the need to begin my fall rituals. The cold crisp to the air and dry nights put me in the mood for the more austere reds and heartier foods. October and November continue the celebration of this wonderful time of year and I take solace in knowing that this is just the beginning.

One thing that truly marks the beginning on the fall is my desire to once again stand over a burner, for a half hour straight, stirring a risotto. That being said, my newest article at Snooth has just been published and its one that any lover of food and wine owes it to themselves to try; Risotto al Barolo.

Risotto al Barolo
Two Versions of this Piemontese Classic

Nothing thrilled me more as an aspiring young chef and lover of Barolo and Barbaresco than to learn that a dish such as Risotto al Barolo existed. The idea of it was almost unimaginable; pouring half a bottle of Barolo into a pan. I had to wonder, could it really be that good? Could it really be worth it? Well you know what? It is...

Read the rest and get the recipe at: Snooth

As for wine, September was full of some wonderful surprises. Some are top shelf, while others were amazing for their big rich and bold flavors. All are currently available at retail, even the 1973 Rioja. Each is worth checking out.

1973, Vina Valoria Rioja - This bottle was decanted three hours before tasting. It opened with sweet plum sauce, cherry tobacco, allspice and clove with sweet peas and musk on the nose. This wine excites the palate with roasted cherries, old cedar, sweet sun tea and fresh earth on a gorgeous velvety frame. The finish is long, long, long with tealeaf and spicy fresh cherry. (93 points)

Find it on:

1995 Comm, G.B. Burlotto Barolo Monvigliero -The nose on this wine showed black olive tapenade with mineral penny and dusty sour cherry. The first impression on the palate is how this wine starts sour and as it worked its way across the palate, became massive. Flavors of cranberry and wild berries with an herbal quality lingered on the long finish and gave way to a tannic tug on your palate. (93 points)

Find it on:

2006 Bodega Numanthia Termes Toro Termes - After two hours in decanter, this wine showed dark raspberry jam, mulling spices, musk and toasted gram cracker on the nose. On the palate, I found spicy, dark black fruits and plum sauce, which led to a long mouth coating finish. This wines structure was massive but the tannins have faded a little since my last tasting and it has left this wine with a velvety smooth mouth feel. (91 points)

Find it on: