Monday, March 21, 2011

Producer Spotlight: G.D. Vajra

A couple of terms I’ve often heard in Italian wine circles, “Buy the producer, not the vintage.” or “If you want to find a good Barbera or Dolcetto, look to the producer of a good Barolo.” In this case, G.D. Vajra applies to both. Only a year ago, the name G.D. Vajra was nothing more to me than another producer of Barolo making wine in the Langhe with a single vineyard bottle coming from Bricco Viole vineyard.

However, since that time, my head has been turned. It started with a review from Antonio Galloni (Wine Advocate), of the 2006 G.D. Vajra Freisa, which he scored 95 points. To me, it was the challenge of tasting a Freisa (a generally good red that remains obscure outside of Italophile circles) that could possibly score 95 points. In the end, the bottle was open, glasses poured and emptied--and I sat speechless, thinking about how utterly enjoyable the wine was. Following this experience, I realized that I had to taste more wines from this producer.

G.D. Vajra is no newcomer to Barolo; in fact, Aldo and Milena Vaira have been making notable wines since the early eighties. However, it has only been in the last few years that these wines have truly started to catch on here in the States. They are admittedly traditional in style, yet each of their wines seem to have such purity of fruit and notable elegance that it’s hard to imagine exactly how they’ve achieved such a unique style. Whatever it may be, it’s obvious to me that the fruits that go into these wines are of the highest quality, and that great attention is paid in making sure it’s transparent to the taster.

What’s more, after speaking with Giuseppe Vaira, Aldo’s son, the most apparent thing to me is that, this family of winemakers has a level of intense passion that is infectious. It’s a passion for the vines, the soil and the wine that shines through as Giuseppe speaks about this beautiful set of releases. I would recommend each of the wines below as perfect examples of their kind.

On to the notes:

2009 G.D. Vajra Dolcetto d'Alba – The nose showed focused blackberry fruit with spice, floral notes and wood tones. On the palate, this showed vibrant acidity with more blackberry and hints of citrus, leading to a clean fruity finish that provided those token Dolcetto bitters that I have grown to love. (89 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher

2008 G.D. Vajra Barbera d'Alba – The nose showed gorgeous red fruits, earth and stems. On the palate, I experienced intense ripe red berries with hints of cedar, turning to sour cherry on the finish. This wine was so pure and honest, as the quality of the fruit showed through more than anything else. (91 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher

2009 G.D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo – The nose showed bright florals and cranberry with menthol and hints of wood. On the palate, this wine’s feminine structure and zesty acidity made for a lifting, airy expression with pure sour cherry. The finish was fresh and palate-cleansing. This is a beautiful, young Nebbiolo that can be sipped for enjoyment but also the perfect companion for food. (92 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher

2007 G.D. Vajra Langhe Freisa Kyè - The nose showed blueberries and cherries dusted in confectioners sugar with forest notes and holiday spice. On the palate, a wave of concentration was washed down by vibrant acidity, leaving a slightly bitter finish. Rich blackberry flavors and tealeaves filled out the palate, and the finish showed an interesting spiced orange note. This may need time to integrate a little, but there's serious potential in the bottle and should be on the list of any serious Italian wine lover. (92 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher

2006 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe - The nose showed dusty black cherry, allspice, rock dust and hints on menthol. On the palate, I found wild red berries, earth, green olive and crushed flower petals with teaming acidity and a slight sour profile. The finish showed cedar and leather, but unlike most Barolo of its age, no overwhelming tannin was present. This may not be a Barolo for the ages, but it is very enjoyable now. (90 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher 

2005 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole – The nose of the Bricco delle Viole was elegant and classy, as red wild berries, roses, wood and spice aromas wafted up from the glass. On the palate, I found enveloping red fruit restrained behind a firm feminine structure. The finish coated the palate in silky tannin. From the nose alone, this bottle shows a bright future. (94 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher

2009 G.D. Vajra Moscato d'Asti – The nose showed pear, honeydew and hints of citrus. On the palate, I found plush, sweet apple in a mouth-filling yet beautifully fresh expression of Moscato. The finish showed hints of lime and a lingering refreshing sweetness. (89 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher

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